Education Investment: The Key to Papua New Guinea’s Economic Future

Port Moresby, May 3, 2024 – A recent report by the World Bank stresses the importance of education investment for Papua New Guinea’s long-term economic prosperity. The country’s economy is expected to accelerate in 2024, following a slowdown last year. However, the report emphasizes that this growth will be sustainable only with a greater focus on education.

PNG economic growth is forecasted to rise to 4.8% this year, up from 2.7% in 2023, following the reopening of the Porgera gold mine. Despite this, the growth is expected to remain below its pre-pandemic trajectory. “Papua New Guinea’s economy is gradually recovering from the impacts of the pandemic,” said Ruslan Piontkivsky, World Bank Senior Economist for Papua New Guinea. “However, growth could have been higher if not for the riots and looting in January and fuel supply disruptions.”

The report also highlights that the benefits of growth over the last decade have not been shared by all, with the poorest in Papua New Guinea not seeing significant welfare improvements. It calls for a greater focus on the country’s human capital – the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives.

The challenges facing Papua New Guinea in education are stark. An estimated 72% of ten-year-olds are not able to read and understand age-appropriate texts. These early impacts have serious longer-term effects, with only 18% of 20- to 24-year-olds having completed secondary or some tertiary education. This represents a serious foregone opportunity.

“Papua New Guinea’s most important asset is its people,” said Lars M. Sondergaard, World Bank Lead Economist for Education in the Pacific. “Improved teaching quality and education investment could turn Papua New Guinea’s young population into an engine of growth.”

The report calls for an urgent focus on early education and investments in primary and maternal healthcare and nutrition to address childhood stunting. It also emphasizes the need for increasing the quantity and quality of the teaching workforce, investing in better teaching and learning materials, and upgrading education legislation, policy, and practices to enhance outcomes in the education sector.

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